Farm Manager: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a farm manager. Learn about common tasks, earning potential, typical training and certification options to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Landscape Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Farm Manager?

Farm managers use strong management skills to run complex agricultural businesses, including overseeing tasks ranging from planting corn to birthing calves. They manage all parts of crop production including using market condition, disease and soil to decide how to raise crops. They purchase any supplies needed for crops or livestock. Farm managers maintain equipment and facilities. They also sell livestock, crops and dairy products. Farm managers are responsible for keeping track of all records and documents for tax purposes.

The following chart tells you more about this career.

Education Required Experience, associate's degree or bachelor's
Education Field of Study Agricultural business, animal science, agronomy, equine studies
Key Responsibilities Hiring and firing, analysis of production data and long-range weather forecasts, handling financing and sometimes working directly with crops or animals
Job Forecast (2014-2024) -2% (for all farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers)*
Median Salary (May 2015) $64,170 (for all farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Might I Do as a Farm Manager?

When you work as a farm manager, it's your job to oversee the daily activities of a single farm, multiple farms or another type of agricultural operation. With large farms, you aren't likely to spend time performing the hands-on tasks of farming. Instead, you manage the business aspects of running a farm. This includes hiring and managing the workers who conduct most of the labor involved in keeping the farm running. You also analyze historical production data and long-range weather forecasts to determine the best time to plant crops, harvest and attempt to sell what is produced.

Additionally, there are many facets of economics and financial management for which you may be responsible. Farms can be highly vulnerable to a variety of factors, such as flooding or disease. You need to weigh the risks and study the market in order to make calculated decisions for the farm. Also, many farms operate by borrowing money for seeds, new livestock and equipment; as farm manager, you work with lenders to earn financing that enables you to keep the farm functioning.

On small or independent farms, you may perform all of the tasks noted as well as working in the fields or with the livestock. This requires long hours on crop-based farms, particularly during planting and harvesting times. When working with livestock, you also work long days as farm animals require extensive attention; for example, dairy cows must be fed and watered daily, milked several times each day and monitored for health concerns. Farm managers have rare breaks in their year, though you may hire temporary help to alleviate seasonal duties.

What is the Typical Salary?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, farm managers earned a median annual salary of $64,170 as of 2015 (www.bls.gov); this figure also included data for ranch and other agricultural managers. Self-employed farmers may experience significant swings in earnings from year to year, based on fluctuations in the value of their products and weather conditions beyond their control. However, many farm managers work for a fixed salary that is less susceptible to these variances.

What Types of Training Will I Need?

While you can become a farm manager with no formal education, there are many degree programs that can strengthen your skills. For example, associate's and bachelor's degree programs in agricultural business, animal science, agronomy and equine studies can provide you with knowledge specific to running a farm. Since accounting and financial management skills are important in this field, taking business courses or completing a business degree can also be of significant value. Experience working on a farm in any capacity is also favorable for job acquisition.

What Certification Can I Earn?

No certification is required in order to work as a farm manager; however, certification can help you improve your employment potential and stay aware of happenings in the farming industry. The American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers offers the Accredited Farm Manager (AFM) designation. You need to meet a wide variety of criteria in order to become an AFM, including taking a series of courses, completing at least four years of farm management experience and passing the AFM accrediting exam.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a few other options for those looking for a career similar to being a farm manager. Agricultural managers are responsible for many of the same tasks as farm managers, though they normally hire farm and livestock workers to complete most of the production tasks. Another option is an agricultural worker who maintains farms, crops and livestock. They normally work for farm and agricultural managers. These career options all require a high school diploma and on the job training.

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